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Time is slippery. Don't waste yours.
It only takes one phone call to change your life.
I’ll never forget the ring that woke me up in the middle of the night on December 28, 2013. I sat up in my bed in my cold, drafty Princeton apartment and listened to my husband’s garbled voice reassure me through a shoddy connection from Afghanistan, “Something bad happened. I can’t tell you anything else but if you see something on the news, I’m alive.” Click. I knew someone was dead. Later, my husband, Philip, informed me that a close friend was killed by IED attack as he left the base. Dave Lyon died on December 27, 2013. The day he left this earth demarcated a distinct “before” and “after” in my husband’s life and military service. By extension, this event became an existential boundary experience for me, too.
It’s been nine years. Anniversaries of trauma and loss haunt and hit people differently each year. Philip and I were processing his reactions this week, and something he shared stayed with me: We don’t get to decide when our life is finished.
People don’t like thinking about their mortality, but it is the consciousness of how finite human existence is that helps us be more alive. Acknowledging that our days are numbered sharpens our focus. Time is slippery. We all need to start living like we’re dying. Because we are. Instead of fearing death, get frightened about the tragedy of not fully living.
Right now, many people are thinking about intentions for the New Year. Love or hate resolutions, it serves us all well to live with more resolve. If you’re drafting goals, push yourself beyond thinking about losing ten vanity pounds. Consider how, in 2023, you can live with purpose.
Step out. Chase a dream with reckless abandon. Stop playing it safe. Go all in. Have the courage to fail. Speak up. Say “no” more often. Don’t just do, be. Stop trying to make everyone like you. They don’t (and won’t). Go to therapy. Reclaim your focus. Take control of your calendar. Put white space on your schedule. Let yourself be bored. Use all your vacation days. Put down your damn phone. Date your spouse. Play with your kids. Take care of yourself. Invest in others. Share what you have. Create a legacy that will last.
Stop wasting your life. When we squander our time, we throw away opportunity. Don’t fritter away precious moments with fleeting, inconsequential things. Turn off your television. Stop mindless scrolling. Identify the silly things that lack substance but keep pulling you back. Cull superficial relationships.
If you’re prone to escapism or need constant distraction, examine what’s driving it. Address the root issue. Get busy building a life you don’t have to run from. Devise a plan to reclaim your attention.
Stop saying, “I don’t have enough time…” Do a ruthlessly honest audit of how you’re choosing to spend yours. Your bank account and calendar tell the truth about what matters to you. Don’t accept excuses from yourself.
Life doesn’t wait for us to finish our business. Too often, we assume we’ll have more time, but we don’t get infinite chances to get things right. Instead, we put important things off and leave things unspoken. It’s a gamble. What are you willing to risk? If you’re telling yourself, “I’ll get to it tomorrow…” what happens if tomorrow doesn’t come?
Two days before Dave died, he spent Christmas Eve with his wife in Kabul. Unbeknownst to them, it was the last supper. We rarely can predict our “last times” with accurate precision. The ones that leave the most emotional whiplash in their wake are the unexpected things that catch us off guard. Dave and my husband had survived a dicey fighting season in the summer of 2013. In some ways, we were stunned they made it through alive. We started to let ourselves think they’d both come home. They did. But not how anyone wanted or expected. Landing at Dover in a flag-draped coffin is not how anyone wants to return from war. It’s the homecoming from hell.
Death didn’t wait until Dave thought his life was complete. He didn’t know his work was finished. None of us did. Sometimes, our plans are interrupted. You don’t choose when you’re done, so live on purpose now.
A New Year’s Note from Me to You:
Two years ago, Substack was just starting to become A Thing, and I decided to start writing here regularly. This space has become a place for me to share my heart and clarify my thinking.
We live in a noisy world and no one needs garbage in their inbox, so I work hard not to add to the cacophony and clutter. When you write in public, it’s a bit like shouting into a dark cave. I never know who is listening or quite how something will land. I’ve always trusted that my words will find the right people, at the right time, through the right channels. Thank you for coming on this journey with me. It humbles me every time you like, comment, share, or support my work. These were some of your favorite pieces this year.
2022 has been A Year. A beautiful, challenging, amazing, unforgettable year. I moved halfway across the world. I met my business partners IRL for the very first time. I got to continue to do work I love and build things I’m proud of. Like you, I laughed, I cried, I hoped, and, occasionally, I freaked out.
Life… it’s a trip y’all. I’m glad to be taking it alongside of you.
In Grace & Gratitude,
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If you’re interested in more strategies for managing stress, raising your EQ, and strengthening self-awareness, don’t miss Finding Joy: